Thursday, June 19, 2014

Book Review: Bran New Death by Victoria Hamilton (Merry Muffin Mysteries #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Eccentric yet believable characters and a good story
Cons: Story could have started a little faster
The Bottom Line:
Merry's castle home
Gives her front seat to murder
Fun start for readers

Bran New Series is a Winner

Sometimes, when I hear the theme of a new mystery series, I am surprised there isn't already a series out there with that theme.  Such was the case with Bran New Death.  Seriously, we didn't have muffins before?  And since I seem to be even more addicted to culinary cozies than I was before, I had to pick it up.  The result was fun.

After months of trying to sell it, Merry Wynter has no choice but to go visit her inheritance.  Located by the small town of Autumn Vale, Wynter Castle is just that - a castle in the middle of upstate New York.  Even after seeing it, Merry still feels the need to sell it.  The upkeep on it alone would be more than her savings would tolerate.

However, she quickly realizes the grounds and house need some serious repair.  After all, someone has been digging holes in the yard.  That someone turns out to be Tom Turner, and after they have a very public fight, Tom turns up dead in the bottom of one of those holes.  Can Merry navigate the new small town and find the killer?

You'll notice that I didn't really talk about the muffin making above.  It does happen, and it is an organic part of the story.  But it's something that Merry falls into along the way, not the focus of the book.  Since, I will admit, I read for the mystery more than anything else, I really don't mind.

What I did mind was the slow start.  We got Merry's back story and learned a bit about the town and her family before things really got going.  It wasn't too bad, but the start definitely could have been a bit faster.

Once the book does get going, however, it's a great read.  The plot moves forward at a quick pace with some twists and surprises along the way.  I didn't figure out the solution until Merry did, but it made perfect sense.

The characters can be a bit over the top, and yet they work.  Merry is the most normal, but even her best friend isn't well grounded.  As I said, their eccentricities work, however.  They kept me entertained even during the beginning, and they never felt like caricature.  They were just plain fun.

Heck, I got a few laughs out of the book as well.  There was one line in particular, just over half way through, that really got me.

Under the pen name Amanda Cooper, the author has just started a Teapot Collector's series.  I found that fun since Merry also collects teapots.  Just an interesting bit of trivia.

Naturally, there are recipes in the back - two muffins and a soup.  All three sound excellent, and I'd love to try them myself.

With some on going stories definitely still up in the air (and some intriguing teases left for us), I'll definitely be back for more.  Cozy readers will gobble up Bran New Death and be left wanting the next bite.


  1. I really liked this series as well. I am waiting on the next one. I particularly liked that the muffin theme was not overwhelming - the mystery and the characters were in the forefront.

    1. Yes, the muffin theme was balanced well with the story and characters. It was interesting enough and gave Merry some access to people without overwhelming things.